The Role of Reader Characteristics in Processing and Learning From Informational Text

Mar. 25, 2009

Source: Review of Educational Research. Volume 79, Issue 1; p. 197-262 (March 2009).

The article examines the role of reader characteristics in processing and learning from informational text, as revealed in think-aloud research.

The article addresses a central question linking reader characteristics, process, and product: How do reader characteristics relate to what is seen from readers in terms of conscious processing while reading and learning from informational text and to the nature and quality of the mental representations they construct?

A theoretical framework for relevant aspects of readers' processing and products was developed. The relevant aspects included three attentional foci for processing (comprehension, monitoring, and evaluation) and five types of processing behaviors (use of strategies, metacognition, monitoring, goal setting and pursuit, and use of prior knowledge).
Relevant aspects of products included mental representations of text (textbase, situation model of text, situation model of phenomenon, and author model) and the quality of those representations.

A body of 45 studies was identified, considering reader characteristics of ability, experience, knowledge, and interest.
Overall, low levels of all these were associated with an emphasis on local-level processing and effortful construction of a textbase, while higher levels were associated with more globally directed, more effective, more flexible engagement, leading to better quality mental representations and greater learning.

Updated: May. 18, 2009